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Tragedy of Existence?

June 1, 2012 ,


By Ed Reep | The Daily Targum

Sometimes when we think about our lives and our existence — both in terms of the present and the future — we get overwhelmed with this idea that things are not right, that somehow things will not be ideal for us in a cosmic sense. We think that the very fact of our existence contains a flaw that dooms us to some kind of suffering or emptiness. This idea we sometimes get that I describe is called the tragedy of existence. Woody Allen often describes the tragedy of existence in his movies. Young Alvy Singer in “Annie Hall” discusses his depression that stems from the concern that “the universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, then some day it will break apart, and that will be the end of everything.” I know that when I was younger, I used to think that the options of existing forever and one day ceasing to exist were equally unsatisfying. When I wrestled with that conundrum, I was staring the tragedy of existence right in its eye, and the emotions I felt pertaining to the tragedy of existence were the worst I ever felt — pure despair about life. In actuality, there is no tragedy of existence. The universe has been designed so everything about our existence, now and in the future, is ideal and in a very tangible sense, too. By realizing this great truth, you have the foundation for attaining happiness in knowing the fact everything about your existence will ultimately work out and you needn’t worry about it.

 The second key to happiness is realizing that happiness is not about feeling joy all the time or everything always working out in your life. No, happiness is really just a generalized contentment with the way things are for you. Think of people you know who truly love their lives. They aren’t living in some kind of heaven where they get everything they want. They, like anybody, deal with conflict and disappointment and heartache, but they wouldn’t trade their lives for anything because, taken together, everything about their life is awesome, and the bad needs to be there in order for there to be good. Think how you may cherish the flaws in your favorite movie or book — yes, the badly delivered line or slow part is a negative, but the amazing end product would not exist without it. This realization allows you to recognize happiness when you feel it and be able to determine what brought you there.

The third key to happiness is realizing that stress is the main cause of unhappiness — that being generalized discontentment with the way things are for you. Think about times at school when you have been really unhappy. I bet you that the majority of those times had something to do with the existence of work you didn’t want to do that needed to be done by a deadline. Those experiences just eat you up with dread and anguish — whether you’re engaging in the unpleasant activity or not — because you need to immerse your mind in the activity’s unpleasantness not only to actually to do it, but also to make sure you remember that you have to do it. Some of the most painful, miserable moments I’ve ever felt were when I had to work on projects I waited until the last minute to start — it’s suffocating, like being stuffed in a morgue container for days while you’re conscious. At least when you’re unhappy because of some tragedy or drama in your life (or even the tragedy of existence), you have the luxury of being able to take your mind off what’s bothering you by getting lost in a pleasant activity. Unhappiness because of stress is the most awful overall because of what I describe, and everyone should try to minimize stress in order to be happy. What are the best ways to minimize stress? Reverse-procrastinate on assignments, and avoid making commitments pertaining to things you are not passionate about.

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